How the Toy Aisle Erased Black Widow from Her Own Best Scene

In a movie stuffed with crowd-pleasing scenes, few moments elicited greater cheers from the audience than Black Widow dropping out of a moving jet on a custom-built Harley Davidson to rush to Captain America’s aid in the Avengers: Age of Ultron.

black-widow-ultron-avengers

It just gets cooler and cooler the more you watch it.

I don’t think there was a person in the theater who didn’t think that was the coolest thing they had ever seen. And it was almost designed to sell toys so kids could recreate the scene at home. Heck, if military jets ever come down in price, I’d love to try it full-scale.

Marvel’s licensing partners obviously saw the immense appeal and rushed to give us our own motorcycle-launching Quinjets in the toy aisle.

Marvel Avengers Age Of Ultron Cycle Blast Quinjet Vehicle

Hasbro, Marvel’s main toy licensor gave kids the Marvel Avengers Age Of Ultron Cycle Blast Quinjet Vehicle.

Marvel Avengers Age Of Ultron Cycle Blast Quinjet Vehicle

Marvel Avengers Age Of Ultron Cycle Blast Quinjet Vehicle

From the description on the website:

Launch your own air-to-ground attack with this incredible Cycle Blast Quinjet vehicle! The sleek jet fits up to 4 figures (other figures sold separately). It’s a fast-diving jet with a secret weapon – a compartment that launches a motorcycle! With your Captain America figure speeding away on his powerful cycle, the jet can climb back to higher altitude for recon and air attacks! Bad guys will be running for cover when you deploy your awesome Cycle Blast Quinjet vehicle!

Wait a minute. Captain America gets launched on a motorcycle? That’s Natasha’s gig. And while the “jet fits up to 4 figures,” Black Widow is not one of them. Hasbro’s only Black Widow figure (a Toys ‘R Us exclusive) is the wrong size.

Mattel’s Hot Wheels Marvel Avengers Age of Ultron Quinjet Moto Launcher

But Hasbro wasn’t the only company to recreate the Quinjet scene in toy form. Mattel’s Hot Wheels Marvel Avengers Age of Ultron Quinjet Moto Launcher had almost the same functionality — but better.

Hot Wheels Marvel Avengers Age of Ultron Quinjet Moto Launcher

Hot Wheels Marvel Avengers Age of Ultron Quinjet Moto Launcher

This Quinjet comes with Iron Man, a character who can fly and has literally zero need for a motorcycle of any sort. I’m fairly certain he is not in the same room as a motorcycle in either Avengers movie.

But you can buy other Age of Ultron “Motos” that are compatible with the playset. These include:

  • Captain America (covered above);
  • Hawkeye (never rides a motorcycle in the movies); and of course,
  • Ultron (who can also fly — and he’s the freakin’ villain!)

No Black Widow.

Selling Our Kids Short

It’s a sad situation when marketers love everything about the Black Widow’s best scene — except Black Widow. While recognizing how awesome Black Widow is in the movie, they have convinced themselves that girls do not want representation in the action figure aisle and that boys can never look up to a female hero — so Black Widow ends up replaced in the very scene that inspired the toys in the first place.

Comments

comments

John Marcotte

John Marcotte

Secret identity of a father raising two super-heroic young girls

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19 Responses

  1. the 4th doctor. says:

    Girl action figures historically never sell well that is why you never find them in the Action Figure Isle its sad but true.

    • John Marcotte John Marcotte says:

      Actually, they generally sell out when manufactured. The trouble is that they have decided that action figures are exclusively for boys and that boys will not play with female action figures. Both assumptions are wrong.

      When was the last time they attempted to market action figures to the girls that make up around half of the audience for the movies?

      • Ragu says:

        Where are your stats for that? I would bet money that the women that make up “half of the audience” are NOT in the age bracket that buys toys and action figures.

        • bridge_agent says:

          How about instead of parsing stats, we demand that our sons and daughters be able to play with toys that represent females as well as males.

        • John Marcotte John Marcotte says:

          Guardians box office was 44% female. I’m not aware that they broke down the demographics more than that.

          Go to a major comic convention and just look around. The women — and girls — are there, in nearly equal numbers to the boys.

          Nine out of the ten graphic novels on the New York Times best-sellers list right now are from female creators.

          The girls are already here. It’s just a matter of who will actually give them what they want.

          “DC Super Hero Girls” launches in the fall, BTW.

          • Clint Irwin says:

            The problem with that line is that companies love money and don’t care if it is from boys or girls. You can believe they tested it with female action figures and you can bet it didn’t work. It’s not a sociology project, it’s business.

    • lee says:

      It’s not true. Where is the research? And ‘historically’, when? In the fifties? the sixties? The turn of the century?
      Why would it work in the film, but not in the toy? That’s like saying Batman really shouldn’t be in a bat-cave toy because only little girls like to play with dollhouses, so let’s put Catwoman in it. It’s nonsense. These people don’t think boys wont’ buy a girl action figure. They know they will. THEY JUST DON’T WANT THEM TO.
      Besides 49% of comic readers are female. Do they not matter? What’s wrong with their money?

  2. Kyle Clark says:

    this would have been a sure thing for me to buy for my 8yr old daughter ….one of the hardest things if finding toys that my daughter can identify with….sure she likes ponys and barbie but why not let her play with black widow, make it now….

  3. Finally found an Avengers patterned fabric that included Black Widow. Bought it all.

  4. Lisa Bird says:

    After re-reading this, I felt like sharing this post about my experiences. This was my response to a friend of mine who disagreed with the outrage I expressed when linking to this article…

    As a kid did you ever shop for toys? When my brother and I would go to any toy store, there is the Girl’s section and the Boy’s section. This is the early 90’s, he already had a toybox FULL of cool action heroes to play with, and I had some Barbies and horses I was sick to death of. So we’d both be standing there in the Boy’s section, he has hundreds of male figures to choose from – heroes, villains, monsters, robots, they’re all kick-ass with weapons and accessories, there are cool vehicles and cool submarines they can ride in and rocket launchers they can man, big detailed headquarters with swivel chairs, computers to use for investigations, a jail to lock the bad guys in, etc etc.

    In that section, I am LUCKY AS HELL to find one or two female action heroes. They may not be characters I’ve heard of, or like, but I’m stoked because there are one or two GIRLS in a sea of action figures. That’s it. In the Girl’s section, meanwhile, I can choose from any number of Barbie’s, babies, fake makeup, fake hair to brush that isn’t remotely similar to my (ethnic) hair anyway (though that’s another rant altogether.) I can pick out a tiara, but I’d rather spend that money on a sword so I might stand a chance against the neighbor kids, and anyway standing on the top of the jungle gym waiting to be rescued is fucking agonizingly boring. We’ve got plenty of dolls who are some variation of the same fashionista, advertised gushing about her love of shopping, shoes, and dating douchebags who look like golf caddies (douchebag sold separately.) It’s not all fun and games though, you can also work in the grocery store! Are you getting this yet? Do you see the problem?

    Anyway, my mom ended up ordering me sets of female hero and villain action figures from the back of Wizard Magazine. Meanwhile, to get the same kind of toy, you, my brother, and any other little boy could just walk into any store and take your pick. “Check out all of these men who are powerful and awesome! Women? Uh… you’re in the wrong section, sweetheart.” All this because I had the audacity as a little girl to think it would be cool if the girl could save the day, destroy the village, reprogram the evil robots, rob the bank, or makeout with Batman (finally a worthy suitor!)

    This is 20 some years ago. Now, here we are with The Avengers. A mainstream film featuring strong female heroes. In one of Black Widow’s coolest scenes she rides the motorcycle off of the jet. The toy that has a jet and a motorcycle you can ride off of it? …Comes with Captain America instead. Okay, so, you can just buy her separately and use her with it though, right? Like if you’re a young lady who saw the film and wanted to reenact that awesome scene? Yeaaaah… she’s actually not at all available in that collection. The only other Black Widow action figure you can purchase isn’t compatible with that set, she doesn’t fit in the jet, can’t ride the motorcycle. So, even when a woman is a hero in the movie, little girls don’t get the toy. Can you seriously not see the problem here? We are failing as a society if all we want little girls to do is make babies and play makeups.

    • Clint Irwin says:

      The thing is, you are an individual, not a demographic. Toy companies would like your money and you can bet they tried, but there are just not enough of you out there, no matter how may friends you can point to and how many stats you can cite. Companies are not in the business of fighting sexism or social engineering, they are in the business of profit, and so far there is not enough profit in action heroes for girls.

      • Kristen Boland says:

        We ARE a demographic – a large one at that. Despite what male-dominated comic culture thinks, women have always taken interest in comics, particularly when represented by strong female characters like Black Widow, Phoenix, or Wonder Woman. The fact that, in 2015, we have to ask the question of “why are female action figures not included or being made at all” points to the larger issue of gender-imbalance in comic culture.

      • Ben says:

        The problem is that you are clinging to an idealized image of companies. They are led by a mainly male management that probably comes from a generation that considered all girls as potential housewives but nothing more. And yes, they are in the business of social engineering, they just don’t admit it because that might require some kind of self reflection. So if you bet that they tried selling female action figures you would probably loose your money. The management just assumes that girls aren’t a relevant market and that boys will never play with a Black Widow figure. But we all know what assuming does to you and me – unfortunately in this case it also screws society. So please stop excusing them.

      • Lee says:

        Are you seriously saying girls won’t buy a DOLL? Really? It’s a DOLL! You’re defending the indefensible and you need to ask yourself why.

  5. Hank Moto says:

    If you produce a movie based toy line that removes all of the movie’s female characters, and replaces them with men, you are absolutely in the social engineering business.

    I work in the toy industry, and have worked with both Hasbro and Mattel, and part of this debacle is not because of predicted marketing returns, but based on the way toy lines are managed. Both companies separate “boys” toys from “girls” toys, and essentially have a wall up between the divisions.

    Inventing, licensing, and product development of boys and girls toy lines are kept completely separate.

    Both companies keep “action toys” in the “boys” group that decides what to produce based on the license. It’s that group that decided to eliminate the female hero. I guarantee that it wasn’t based on an extensive market research project for this particular film or audience. Single toys don’t get that kind of attention; especially toys that have to be designed a year or more before a movie’s release.

    • Pruett says:

      I have also worked for one of these toy companies and agree with this. I assume the “boy” group eliminated the female hero because they thought that an adult wouldn’t buy a femaie hero toy for a child – not necessarily specifically from this movie but across the board with all action films.

  6. Lisa Bird says:

    Good news, everyone! In light of the decision that the benefits of a profitable business model outweigh the slightly less beneficial practice of prioritizing social justice, we’ve decided to bring back slavery and pay women in makeup and diet pills.

  7. Richard Shears says:

    Wow! I’m moved by seeing the passion in this debate. I would like to say first that I have been buying toys for close to 40 years and the shift in society especially with girls and the doors that have opened for them in that time has left the toy industry bewildered because they just are 2,3,4,even 5 steps behind. Whatever the reason it’s unfortunate for both parties Because little girls looking for strong female role models (and little boys needing to see them too)miss out and the Big Companies lose customers until, well,people stop buying their products altogether. So then maybe somebody else that will make strong girls toys can come into the pictur.